Clinical holistic medicine dates as far back as Hippocrates and an holistic approach to caring for patients was also mentioned by Percival the first textbook of medical ethics – published in 1803 in which Percival claimed: “The feeling and emotions of the patients require to be known and to be attended to, no less than the symptoms of their diseases.”
But what exactly is it? Holistic medicine is seen as hokery pokery by some and a complete waste of time and money by others, especially as there have not been any significant scientific studies which prove it works, despite the testimonies of thousands of patients themselves who swear by it.
Holistic medicine means consideration of the ‘whole person’, the body, the mind, their lifestyle, and their beliefs and spiritual nature, in order to manage and prevent disease or medical or psychological conditions. Holistic practitioners believe there is a link between physical health and general ‘well-being’, that our well-being relies not only on what is going on in our bodies, but also on the links between this with our other five states (physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social). They believe that all should be managed together and the patient is treated as a ‘whole’.
Holistic medicine looks for underlying causes of the symptoms in order to treat them, almost reading between (or underneath) the lines. A patient suffering from migraine headaches would not just be given medications to treat the pain but the practitioner would take a look at all the possible factors that could be causing the person’s headaches, such as diet and sleep habits, stress and they would look at personal concerns and issues, if the patient is happy to talk about them, and even spiritual practices. The practitioner would then draw up a treatment plan based on all this information as a whole, which could involve medication to relieve symptoms, but also modifications to lifestyle to help prevent the headaches from recurring in the future.
It is a common misconception that holistic medicine dismisses conventional ‘western’ medicine from its treatment plan. Whilst the use of complementary and alternative medicine are more common, it also uses conventional medicine to form part of the treatment. However the main focus is on nutrition, homeopathy, exercise, acupuncture and even prayer and meditation which are all used together alongside conventional medicine as part of the holistic approach. A good practitioner would never suggest patient stop using their conventional treatment if already prescribed. They would base their plan around that treatment so that they might complement one another in the treatment of the ‘whole’. In fact, what most people don’t realise is that an holistic approach has been strongly advocated by the Royal College of General Practitioners for many years and a good GP would consider the patients’ lifestyle habits and situation before treating with conventional medicine.
For more information about good holistic practitioners, check out The British Holistic Medicine Association for more information.